|Queens Park Rangers 0 v 1 Reading|
Saturday, 12th December 2020 Kick-off 15:00
Baby steps - Preview
Friday, 11th Dec 2020 17:55 by Clive Whittingham
QPR have fans inside Loftus Road for the first time since February as Reading come to visit on Saturday.
QPR (4-6-7, DWLLLD, 18th) v Reading (9-3-5, LDWDWL, 5th)
Mercantile Credit Trophy >>> Saturday December 12, 2020 >>> Kick Off 15.00 >>> Weather – Grey and chilly >>> Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium, Loftus Road, London, W12
At the start of this year I’d have laughed in your face if you’d offered me what we’re getting tomorrow. Nah, you’re alright mate, I think I’m cutting my toenails tomorrow.
Great news, you can come to Loftus Road on Saturday to watch QPR play.
When I was on local newspapers it was a persistent, weekly issue how we would stylise Birmingham punk band Dog Shit Sandwich in the entertainment listings when they came to play The Flowerpot in Derby. Frankly, one of those sounds more appetising than what we’re about to be served at the home of football on a dark, bleak December afternoon – only a drunk Phil Mitchell slumped over the advertising hoardings away from one of Cold War Steve’s best efforts.
But, at the start of the year, everything was normal. We’d just drawn an entertaining home game with Birmingham 2-2. The team was good to watch, the nights were drawing out, and we were all sat around our tables in the Crown drinking the night away with our Brum mates and chewing the fat over our respective seasons. A dozen tickets for a midweek trip to Charlton and an afternoon-off-work London Bridge drink up pinned to the kitchen noticeboard at home (they’re still there, I can’t bear to remove them, Charlton now a division lower). As I turned at the door of the pub to wave my goodbyes to Gerry the landlord and everybody else in there, I’d never have guessed that we wouldn’t have been back to Loftus Road since. Gerry, sadly, no longer around to welcome us all back, coming down in his dressing gown to let us in out of the cold early after we’d rattled the doors at quarter to 11, as we had done every other Saturday for years, and thought we always would.
We live in a different world now, and what I’ve come to learn in the intervening months is that progress, any sort of progress, is to be seized upon and cherished.
There was novelty value initially, in the summer months. For somebody who started work the Monday after leaving uni and hasn’t had more than a fortnight off since – and probably spent much of those fortnights writing for this website – actually being asked to stay at home, sit in the garden, and do very little was a bit of a Godsend refresh. Certainly nothing to complain about compared to the pain and suffering of those who contracted this disease and died from it, or those who knew somebody who did. I’ve never read and run as much as I did this summer. I laughed so hard at Murdoch press think pieces telling me I missed my £200 a month daily commute on the Northern Line really, because it was part of me, I nearly shit myself.
I thought QPR did an incredible job of making us feel like we were all in it together. The streaming of the games was faultless, contrary to my previous experiences with it. Nick London and Andy Sinton became the voice of the lockdown for me, sent into the Covid zone as our delegated representatives to try and give us some flavour of what it’s like in there, reporting back from the frontline. The WhatsApp groups would know it was bad when even Andy Sinton is audibly getting pissed off with it. Ooooh, Andy’s doing that thing where he sucks his teeth and lets out an exasperated sigh, this must be pretty terrible. Don’t try and do too much with the free kicks Ilias, listen to the man, just get it in there. The Saturday night quizzes, chaired by a variety of drunk former QPR heroes, in increasingly elaborate fancy dress, were inspired. It brought the Crown and Sceptre gang back together, albeit from sofas and via Zoom. Gareth Ainsworth dressed as Gene Simmonds. Lee Cook up to his tits in Moretti. Viewing figures that would shame a good chunk of Sky’s EPG. What a club. What. A. Club. Paul Morrissey, Matt Webb, Andy Watkins, whoever was involved in that, hats off.
Late summer brought back pubs, and restaurants. They even paid us to go. Incremental, baby-step, progress. Schools reopened, because the evidence said Covid didn’t live there (well, it’s not going to is it, they’ve been closed for months. Worst episode of Poirot ever). Not shrewd as it turned out. From snatched moments, like Macauley Bonne’s equaliser at Sheffield Wednesday, where Joe ‘the taxi’ Hylton was reprimanded for trying to scale the roof of the pub, or the Dom Ball winner against Cardiff where the Crown garden became a tsunami of airborne beer, to being locked back in our homes again. Locked back in our homes again at the bleakest, darkest, coldest, wettest part of the year. Locked back in our homes again and told it was our fault. Locked back in our homes. Noses pressed against the window. Looking out at the rain.
This second lockdown has hit hard. It’s etched on the faces and riddled through the voices of everybody you speak to – over Zoom, of course, the only place where Covid doesn’t live. Wake up in the dark, go to bed in the dark, hope for the best, get delivered the worst. Thousands are still dying, and in that context it’s difficult to strike the right tone in what is essentially a “woe is me I can’t go to the pub” piece. It’s impossible to imagine the pain of those who’ve lost loved ones, dying slumped on their fronts in hospital beds while doctors try and force oxygen into them, while unfeeling Twitter gobshites talk coldly about mortality rates, “just a bad flu” and “would have died soon anyway”. If that’s you, respect and sympathy. DMs are open. But in a country where the biggest killer of men under 45 is suicide, mental health among the rest is now taking a savage beating.
I spoke prior to the opening game of the season against Nottingham Forest about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, chief among which is the need to belong. As summer has dissolved into winter, as the Saturday night quizzes have faded into Saturday afternoon disappointments, so the distance has grown. I’m a QPR fan. That’s where I belong. It’s my whole identity. I’m Clive the QPR fan. I’m Clive who goes to all the QPR games. I’m Clive who runs that QPR website. I’m Clive the mad head who takes two days off work to go to Blackburn on a Tuesday, loses, and enjoys it. I’m that prick you’ve maybe been unfortunate enough to stand in front of at games, heaving abuse at Joel Lynch (grub) or Keith Stroud (cunt). It’s an easy out for people who meet me, whether we work together every day, or haven’t seen each other for ten years… how are QPR doing?
Invited to peer at it through my television, I’ve felt increasingly detached. Goals, for and against, largely greeted with little more than a shrug. I’ve become utterly bereft. I’m in bed by seven most nights. I get up, I run, I work, I drink, I go to bed with a book. What else is there? If I don’t belong at Loftus Road, where do I belong?
In that context, even a baby step back into Loftus Road is a step worth taking. Tiny progress, for one week, and two games, almost certain to be taken away from us next week with a tier three downgrade. I can’t wait to see some of you tomorrow. I struggle to comprehend how I’m going to feel when it’s taken away again.
When we’re all back together again properly… that’s going to be quite the day.
Links >>> No case for the defence – Podcast >>> Summer upheaval, surprise start – Interview >>> LFW reciprocal piece TileHurst End – Interview >>> Magilton’s Rangers – History >>> Harrington in charge – Referee >>> Reading Official website >>> Tilehurst End – Blog >>> Hob Nob Anyone? Forum >>> Reading Chronicle – Local Paper >>> Get Reading – Local Paper
LFW was saddened to hear of the passing of lifelong QPR fan Allan Payne (@QPRman2) at the age of 54 last Thursday morning. Allan died at home surrounded by his family of QPR fans after a short battle with cancer, having only been diagnosed three weeks prior. He leaves behind a wife, two sons and grandchildren and our thoughts go out to them. Then, now, always.
Team News: No new injuries we’re aware of on the back of the Millwall game during the week, though Warbs Warburton may choose to attack these two home games in four days by restoring Chris Willock to the three behind the lone striker and dropping Little Tom Carroll further back at the expense of either Dom Ball or Geoff Cameron in the defensive positions. Likewise, at right back, Todd Kane seems to get the nod over Osman Kakay when we want to go more attacking. George Thomas and Macauley Bonne came off the bench on Tuesday though neither, in truth, impressed much. In this week’s episode of The Many Varied Adventures of Joe Lumley Joe is… extending his loan at Doncaster by a further week.
Reading suffered a surprise home defeat to Birmingham during the week and what’s more in form forwards Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite both suffered injuries late on – Meite colliding with goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and Joao leaving the field at full time nursing a thigh strain. Both will be assessed before this game. Joao has already scored 14 times this season (QPR have just 18 collectively) and that includes five in five games prior to the Brum loss in which he missed a chance to equalise from the penalty spot. Meite has six, including two in his last three.
Elsewhere: Eyes down look in for a full 12-game Saturday programme, started by the 12.30 tellybox derby game between Cardiff and Swanselona in South Wales.
The most attractive of the 3pmers is arguably leaders Borussia Norwich heading to the Mad Chicken Farmers, whose own brilliant recent form was slightly interrupted by a midweek 1-0 loss at Bristol City. While that result halts Blackburn’s progress from tenth, it lifts the Robins into the play off places prior to their Saturday trip to Rotherham. Second placed Bournemouth, meanwhile, host Huddersfield, while Watford will be hoping their 0-0 draw at Birmingham will be enough to hold them in third place and maintain a one-two-three for the newly relegated teams at the top of the table. The early play-off picture is completed by Swansea and Reading.
Down at the foot of the table, Wayne ‘Wazza’ Rooney has managed to make enough sense of his wax crayon drawings to get three draws and a win from Derby’s last four games lifting them from last to third bottom, and they host Stoke this weekend. Pulisball’s rip-roaring impact at Sheffield Owls (no wins from seven, lost the last two, haven’t scored more than once in a game in 16 attempts dating back to the opening day) has them dead last prior to a Yorkshire-off with Barnsley. Wycombe are sandwiched between them ahead of a homer with Coventry – the Sky Blues, unbeaten in six, and completing a trio of games against fellow recently promoted teams following four points out of six against Rotherham and Lutown. Millwall, winless in nine, risk sliding into trouble ahead of their date on the Thirteenth Annual Neil Warnock Farewell Tour.
Nottingham Florist’s cast of a thousand footballers are fourth bottom with just one point, and one goal scored, in the last six matches. Things aren’t about to get a lot easier for them with Justice League leaders Spartak Hounslow in town tomorrow, almost certainly the best team they’ll face all season.
Referee: Tony Harrington has a colourful recent record with QPR. He awarded three penalties against us in two games during the Steve McClaren 2018/19 season, including two in the 7-1 shellacking at West Brom, and a controversial last minuter against Bristol City which lost us the game. His only match with us in 2019/20 saw him award two spot kicks out way, both to Ebere Eze in the 3-2 away win at Hull. Details.
QPR: Four without a win now for Rangers, although the midweek draw at Millwal did at least snap a run of three straight defeats. Millwall were one of only two clubs QPR still held a perfect winning record against during Mark Warburton’s reign in charge having beaten them 2-1 and 4-3 last season, the other is Stoke City who are in town on Tuesday afternoon. Rangers have won three, drawn three and lost two at Loftus Road so far this season – their last game here with fans in the ground was a 2-2 with Birmingham back in February. It’s now seven matches without a clean sheet since the 1-0 win at Derby registered a fourth from the first ten games and only Coventry (26) have conceded more than our 25 this season (Rotherham, Wycombe and Preston have also shipped 25). Rangers now conceded 112 goals in 68 games under Mark Warburton, with his side conceding 2+ goals in 38 of those matches. Nahki Wells’ goal for Bristol City here last time out means he’s the top scorer at Loftus Road in 2020, tied with Ilias Chair and Bright Osayi-Samuel on six goals, despite him leaving the club last January and only playing at the ground four times in the calendar year.
Reading: The Royals are fifth in the league prior to this one with 30 points, four shy of the leaders Norwich. It’s been a bit of a wild ride so far though. At first iot looked like they might run away with it, winning seven and drawing one of their first eight league games, and keeping six clean sheets in the process. Then it felt like it all might fall apart, with four consecutive defeats and 13 goals conceded in the process. They’ve then gone DWDWL in the last five games leading into this. Away from home they began with a 2-0 win at Derby, 2-1 win at Cardiff, 0-0 draw with Boro, and 4-2 win at Blackburn for an unbeaten run of four and ten points from 12. They then lost 3-2 at Coventry, 4-2 at Bournemouth having led 2-0, drew 1-1 at Millwall and the same at Sheff Wed for a winless run of four and two points from 12. Only Bournemouth, 29, have scored more in the league than Reading, who have 27.
Prediction: We’re indebted to The Art of Football for once again agreeing to sponsor our Prediction League and provide prizes. The squad is updated and you can get involved by lodging your prediction here or sample the merch from our sponsor’s QPR collection here. Last season’s champion Mase, spot on with his Millwall call, offers us this…
“Reading have made a really good start to the season but have been a bit inconsistent lately and their position in the table may not last into the new year. After missing presentable chances and dropping many points in recent games I think we are due to capitalise against someone soon. We created pretty well against Millwall and I hope we will be fired up for this one, the first home game in front of (some of) our fans since February. Let's hope that we can edge it for a surprise and very welcome three points.”
Mase’s Prediction: QPR 2-1 Reading. Scorer – Lyndon Dykes
LFW’s Prediction: QPR 3-2 Reading. Scorer – Ilias Chair
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Letters from Wiltshire #26 by wessex_exile
Well, after a piss-poor Xmas period so far for the U’s, culminating in the Roots Hall horror show on Boxing Day, let’s hope the U’s have burned off those festive calories and are raring to go. They’ll certainly have to be at their best against a Cheltenham side aiming to force their way into the automatic promotion places. In other news, we now finally have confirmation that there will be a trade deal in place with the EU once Brexit arrives in 2021. It remains to be seen whether it’s a good deal or not, and more to the point, who for, but at least it’s not the economic uncertainty of no-deal.
Letters from Wiltshire #25 by wessex_exile
A little earlier than usual, but as we approach the end of what has been a most difficult year for everyone, I’ll keep the introductory editorial brief, as I’m sure you will all be very busy in the coming days rescuing what you can from this pandemic-ravaged festive period. I simply wish you all peace on earth, goodwill to all (yes, even our South Essex cousins), and here’s to a happy, prosperous and most importantly healthy 2021 for us all.
Letters from Wiltshire #24 by wessex_exile
Welcome to our last match before Christmas. With South Essex going into Tier 3, by the time we take to the pitch at Roots Hall, it’ll be another behind-closed-doors match. With the Tier 3 boundary creeping inexorably closer, one wonders how long the JobServe will hold out and still be able to allow fans to attend. Robbie is doing all he can to make it possible for supporters to attend, and I confess I’m seriously considering our January 2nd match against Tranmere. In other news, I’m relieved to read that the FA will not take disciplinary action against Colchester United after a shameful minority chose to boo players and officials taking the knee, in the words of the EFL “as they highlight the inequality and injustice experienced by the Black Community”. I noticed a tiny minority chose to boo at our mid-week match at the Abbey Stadium, but I was pleased to hear they were immediately drowned out by the remainder of the 2,000 cheering and applauding. I admit I’m a little anxious about today…
Letters from Wiltshire #23 by wessex_exile
As I’ve been providing updates on the ongoing US presidential election, it is worth mentioning that the Electoral College votes have now been cast, which formally confirms Biden as the new President-elect. Normally a formality, as the losing candidate has usually long-since conceded defeat, but these are far from normal times, and America has far from a normal lame-duck President. Still, at least the threat of members of the Electoral College ignoring the popular vote in favour of an outcome demanded by Trump has failed to materialise. In the UK, new Covid tiers were announced this week, with London going into Tier 3. Colchester stays in Tier 2, but only just, with as far north east as Maldon, Braintree and Chelmsford also moving into Tier 3 – and as if you need reminding, Tier 3 means no supporters at matches.
Letters from Wiltshire #22 by wessex_exile
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat…hence I’m a bit late today, following the inevitable Christmas tree hunt – the decorating will have to wait until later I reckon. In the news, despite my confident assurance several weeks ago that Trump appeared to be grudgingly starting to accept that he had lost the US presidency election, he’s since doubled-down on his baseless accusations of election fraud – without obviously providing a single shred of evidence to back it up (and how could he, there isn’t any). His latest apoplectic tirade, just today, follows the Supreme Court telling Texas just where they can stick their egregious lawsuit demanding that Biden’s victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia be thrown out in favour of Trump. From a global perspective, it is deeply troubling that no less than 126 republican congressional representatives signed an amicus brief supporting the challenge. Trump will leave the White House in January, but they will stay at the heart of the US government, and I don’t think that’s good news for democracy, nor even the rest of the world. Ho hum…
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